Is the American Physical Society concerned about the future of the field of physics after the closings of several low enrollment departments in Texas public universities?
Try this out from Ted Hodapp’s “Back Page” piece in the December issue of the APS News:
- 49% of all public institutions
- 58% of all institutions
- 100% of all public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (and all but two of the private HBCUs)
These are the percentages of undergraduate physics programs that would be closed if the recently enacted standards in Texas are applied throughout the country. One might write this off as Texas politics, but similar measures are already in progress or being considered in California, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee–and there are undoubtedly others we have not heard from. Physics programs around the country are under attack.
While this is something short of flat-out panic, it is certainly more than mild concern.
If we do not take action, many of the programs that offer physics may be closed, and many students who do not choose physics initially, but instead happen upon it will never have the chance to enjoy the subject. Even more important, we will continue to fail to educate an adequate number of high school teachers who provide the first glimpse of the subject and its power to future generations.
The challenge is to be proactive in shaping a continually improving undergraduate program, building a cohesive student/faculty community, and actively recruiting promising students to that program.